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After two years of silence Highgate is back with another grim slab of sickness. Shrines to the Warhead delivers 4 noisy tracks of almost 45 minutes and shows once again their unique Crusty Doom/Black that is nasty, oppressive and suicidal. This album has been recorded at Candyland Studios and definitely the heaviest effort of the band so far. Devastating.
Highgate are back with their most crushing piece of work to date - "Shrines To The Warhead". When Highgate released their debut album back in 2008, I simply fell in love with the sheer, devastating power and bleakness of their blackened Funeral Doom sound but what amazed me more was the amount of negative reviews it got. One review used quotes like "The Epitome Of Boring" and "the most boring album I had the doubtful honor to listen to, It’s so bad, I don’t even know where to start to criticize it". All i can put that down to is it was simply too heavy for the average feeble minded metal listener, for me it was the true definition of heavy. Like a more blackened version of Warhorse, that album was a devastating statement of pure intensity and while I can see that 55 minutes of some of the most harsh and really ugly sounding doom might not be for everyone, I still thought they were in a league all of their own. This new album is again pure ugly filthy sludge and doom but its very different from the debut, gone is the Black Metal overtones and in comes a even colder, more ambient kind of Sludge Metal. They still remind me of Warhorse on their classic "As Heaven Turns To Ash" album but Highgate go even one step further into the realms of bleakness and slumbering, depressing dirge.
The album begins with a spoken word intro about Pentecostal churches in Appalachia before "Shines To The Warhead" unleashes its first real track titled "Holy Poisoning". With fuzz-filled, below down-tuned bass sounds and a guitar that literally sounds like amplifiers on fire, it moves along at a punishingly slow paced that is driven along with drums that are violently pounded upon but of course very, very slowly. Just when you think it cant get any heavier, it slows down even more before grinding to a halt after 13 minutes of tortured dirge. Yes its ugly and yes there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no hints at melody or hooks, its designed for pure devastation and that is precisely what it delivers. "Of Ruins" continues that tortured sound but with a different guitar tone that adds a more atmospheric presence, the songs still revolve around the minimalist approach but this is where the tension and spine-chilling ambiance comes out to seriously play with your nerves. "Of Ruins" adds little touches like piano that sounds so cold and stark, it somehow adds a even more heavy mood to the piece, its truly scary, nightmarish music. The vocals also take on a even creepier vibe on this album compared with the debut, they are deeper and more tortured, fans of Grief should dig the anguish vocal tones.
The albums fourth and final track is "Warhead Rise", again its another slow motion monster of a track and it has the monster-like vocals to match the horrifying guitar sound. Their minimalist riffing is effective at maintaining the tension but they also tease the listener at times, one part in the song you get the feeling its about to swing into a more uplifting pace but its stopped dead in its tracks to leave you stunned and mentally ravaged. At 42 minutes, its a lot shorter than the previous album but at the same time, it seems more devastating and productive. If you are one of those people who found their self-titled full length to be too much to handle, too cold or too graven, "Shrines To The Warhead" will also be a too much to cope with. Its 100% pure Sludged-Out Doom Metal made for the extreme Doom Metal fan with his or her's taste firmly stuck in the bleakest of Funeral Doom Metal sounds. This album shows Highgate are progressing and have taken their sound to the next level of pure filth and musical punishment, the production is also a step-up on previous works. This is one punishing album you must hear but be warned, it ain't pretty, this is doom-pure.